By Daniel T. Weaver
I have mixed feelings about the newly revealed plans by Governor Cuomo for Guy Park Manor and Lock 11 in Amsterdam, NY. I am fine with illuminating the lock and dams at night. I also do not have a problem with the pedestrian bridge, which will be relatively inexpensive because it will make use of the infrastructure that already exists. It will not have to be built from scratch.
I am also happy that the governor wants Guy Park Manor to be restored. The governor’s wishes alone, however, will not make it happen. These plans are really suggestions for the New York State Power Authority, owner of the manor, to adopt at their upcoming meeting. The board of NYSPA is not required to accept the governor’s plan.
In the governor’s plan there is no mention of exactly how these projects are to be funded. It appears that NYSPA has to obtain the funding. In a series of emails between myself and Steven Gosset, spokesperson for NYSPA, he said the authority has applied for FEMA funding to restore Guy Park Manor. FEMA funds were obtained to fund the complete rebuilding of the historic covered bridge in Blenheim, which gives one hope that FEMA will fund the rehabbing of Guy Park Manor. Nevertheless, NYSPA has not gotten FEMA funding yet, and I doubt that NYSPA can rehab the manor without FEMA funding.
Not everyone is optimistic about the manor being restored. Some people believe the state will just allow it to deteriorate until it has to be torn down. The following email from a friend expresses that opinion clearly.
“This is a very pretty pipe dream that has about as much chance of becoming reality as new high-speed rail that the governor is commissioning yet another feasibility study. Keep in mind what it actually says; the governor is asking that ” the New York Power Authority Board, which now oversees the Canal Corporation as a subsidiary, approve the $300 million investment over the next five years at the board’s January meeting.” The governor isn’t giving them any money, he’s asking them to spend their own money. That is something they are always reluctant to do.
Even if it is approved there isn’t enough money in the proposal to do all of these projects. He has 100 million for the first five projects and you could spend easily half that just in putting in (another???) pedestrian bridge, restoring Guy Park and redoing the grounds at the lock. it is completely unrealistic.
I will say that I believe, without a shadow of doubt, that Guy Park will never be reopened as an historic site. SHIPO had been gunning to get rid of it as far back as the 1960’s and when it did close in 1999 they were clear that they had no interest in it. As it now belongs to the Power Authority there seems to be even less chance as the historic sites they already own have been effectively abandoned by the Power Authority to friends groups who try and maintain them.
My personal feeling is that is will probably sit there untouched until something causes it to fall down, wherein the wreckage will be cleared away and a sign put up.”
This attitude is understandable since the state has often exhibited a negative attitude toward the manor, including a plan in the 1950s to turn it into a warehouse. It is also not a hopeful sign that the manor has been vacant for more than eight years. Nevertheless, we must remain optimistic and continue to pressure the state to restore this historic site.
And that’s what Guy Park Manor is—a historic site. That’s why many locals, myself included, want it restored as a historic site not a hospitality center. Guy Park Manor is a confiscated loyalist site from the American Revolution and would make a great site to tell the loyalists side of the first American civil war. Currently, there is no such site in NYS, even though there is a tremendous interest in the study of loyalism by loyalist descendants in both the United States and Canada.
In the 1950s, 2,000-2,600 people visited Guy Park Manor every year. A one day open house event drew 600 people in 1960. In 1964, 10,000 people visited Guy Park Manor. Whenever Guy Park Manor was curated and marketed by people who understood what they were doing, the place flourished. Too often, it was operated by people who didn’t know what they were doing. If Guy Park is restored as a historic site and if it is curated and marketed properly, it can bring in more tourists and more money to the local economy than if it is turned into a hospitality destination.
When Guy Park Manor was threatened with closure and/or destruction in the past, local people rose up and kept it from happening. That is what must take place now. All the historic sites, associations and societies in Montgomery County and some outside the county need to band together to pressure state government to make sure the manor is rehabbed and make sure it is restored as a historic site not a hospitality destination. If we don’t, then we have lost one of the primary reasons for our existence.